We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Brendan Maghran and his mentor, Amanda Panitch! Brendan signed with Sara Crowe at Pippin Properties. We’re so excited for them!
Category: Middle Grade
Brendan, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your mentor/s?
How to find the heart of your story.
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
We touched up the outline first, and did two major rounds of revision. The first was pretty structural, removing scenes and adding in a few new ones. The second got into the nitty-gritty a little bit more, really asking some tough questions at both the scene and sentence level. Beyond that, Amanda was very open to me asking questions throughout the way. She’s the best!
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
I was absolutely elated to get a call from Sara. She (and Pippin) represent so many wonderful authors who I spent years reading and learning from. After speaking over the phone about the manuscript and hearing Sara’s enthusiasm for the characters and story, I immediately knew I wanted to sign with her. Coupled with how highly her clients speak of her, it was an easy decision.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I think the Pitch Wars revision process was absolutely essential in signing with an agent. We dug deep into the MC’s past, which strengthened the mystery aspects of the book and made the MC more well-rounded. Amanda was essential in helping me reshape the core of the story between the two brothers, which is really the heart of the story.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
To definitely submit! It’s free! Just be kind and willing to do the work. And remember, despite how feedback can raise your hackles, your mentor is on your side. We’re all on your side.
Amanda, tell us about working with your mentee.
I couldn’t have had a better experience mentoring Brendan. We worked through two drafts together, the first on big picture edits and the second on more specific notes, and each time I was impressed by the thoughtful way he tackled plot problems and developed character relationships. I’m not sure what made me happier: his success, or all the adorable pet photos he sent me throughout the process!
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
I think that majorly editing two drafts in the Pitch Wars timeframe is amazing!
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Read, read, read in your age category and genre so that you know what works in your market. Brace yourself for (constructive) criticism, because if you’re chosen, you’re going to get a lot of it. And finally, don’t think it’s the end of the world if you don’t get in! I’m thrilled for Brendan for signing with a fantastic agent after all his hard work, but I was also thrilled to see that one of my runners-up just signed with a fantastic agent without Pitch Wars.
How about some fun questions for Brendan and Amanda.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Brendan: I can write pretty much anywhere so long as there isn’t a TV to distract my eye. For this novel, I did a lot of writing with headphones in, playing the sound of thunderstorm. Not only is there a LOT of rain in this book, but the white noise drowns out distractions.
Amanda: To a bench in the park where I don’t have internet access.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Brendan: Toni Morrison. I can listen to her talk for hours.
Amanda: I’m going to say Deb Perelman of the Smitten Kitchen cookbooks (that counts, right?). I just want to hang out with her and eat and learn about food writing and recipe testing.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Brendan: Newt Scamander. I’d like to meet a Bowtruckle.
Amanda: Right now I’m obsessed with Outlander, so I’d probably go hang out with Claire and Jamie and talk (spoilers).
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Brendan: Harry Potter
Amanda: Definitely the Suikoden games, which are an obscure RPG series from the 90s and early 2000s. They were my first foray into writing fanfiction and online forums, were a big influence in how I tell stories, and replaying them is my comfort food.
What inspired you to start writing?
Brendan: I don’t really remember a time not making things up in my head. For many years I was very committed to stories in a visual manner (I currently work in television), and despite always being a lover of books, never saw myself as capable of being an author. When I did finally take the plunge, writing became fun again.
Amanda: I’ve been writing since I was so young that I don’t remember!
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Brendan: I try to write every day, whether it be working on a new outline (huge fan of outlines) or drafting new words. For this novel, I used a combination of color-coded flashcards and a way-too-intense Google sheets document that combines all plot, character, and subplot information.
Amanda: I’m at my sharpest first thing in the morning, so I typically draft, do intense edits, or anything else that requires serious thinking and concentration from around 7:30-11. Then I break for exercise and lunch, and do less intensive work in the afternoon: line edits or copyedits; publicity stuff; work-for-hire projects; this questionnaire; etc. I’m usually juggling several projects and my inspirations change for each one, but one thing that never changes is that I have trouble writing with music in the background. Silence only!
About the Team…
Not a day has gone by where Brendan didn’t dream of telling a story. He now lives in Los Angeles, California with his family, editing TV shows, writing for children, and eating an endless amount of pie.
Amanda Panitch spent most of her childhood telling stories to her four younger siblings, trying to both make them laugh and scare them too much to sleep. Now she lives in New York City, where she writes dark, funny stories for teens, kids, and the pigeons that nest on her apartment balcony.